The CW Celebrates The Flash and Jane the Virgin, and Looks Ahead to Its Next Big Hit

With little room to add new shows, network saves third superhero series for midseason

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Short and sweet. That's how to describe the CW's Thursday morning upfront presentation, which clocked in at less than 50 minutes—and that's counting a two-song opening set by Of Monsters and Men.

The network took roughly half the time as its broadcast competitors to drive home a similar message of stability and momentum, as the network looks ahead to the 2015-2016 season with a schedule that has changed little from last year's lineup and only one new fall series.

Ratings are up four out of five nights; only its Thursday shows are struggling against ABC's TGIT lineup. "We have momentum, stability and strength," said president Mark Pedowitz. "Growth is not limited to just one show or just one night."

"This has been the best season ever for the CW," added Rob Tuck, evp of national sales, who mentioned the strides the network's made in broadening its audience—i.e., bringing in older viewers—and attracting more men to the network.

Equal attention went to its two freshman hits: The Flash, which is the CW's highest-rated show of all time, and Jane the Virgin, which brought the network its first-ever Peabody and Golden Globe wins. And given that Pedowitz had renewed his entire fall lineup, he said, "We did not have a lot of available shelf space."

That's why the network is debuting only one new series this fall. The show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, is also a rare big swing for a broadcast network in what has shaped up to be a surprisingly conservative 2015-16 slate of new programs. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical about a lawyer who quits her job and moves from New York to West Covina, Calif., in hopes of wooing an ex-boyfriend from 10 years earlier. Star Rachel Bloom, who Pedowitz predicted could be "next season's breakout star"—much as Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez was this year—called it "a dark, screwed-up romantic comedy."

The only other changes to the CW's fall lineup were The Originals moving to Thursday after The Vampire Diaries because "we needed to shore up Thursday a little bit," according to Pedowitz, and Reign moving to Friday because that drama "has an older-skewing audience, and Friday is an older-skewing evening."

The CW saved its biggest spotlight for midseason series DC's Legends of Tomorrow, featuring heroes and villains from Arrow and The Flash including Hawkgirl, White Canary, The Atom, Firestorm, Captain Cold and Heatwave who team up and travel through time to fight a common enemy. 

"It is a possibility" that all three superhero shows will be on the air at the same time, said Pedowitz, who compared Legends of Tomorrow to The Dirty Dozen. "Characters will criss-cross as needed."

Its other new midseason series is drama Containment about a viral outbreak that causes Atlanta to be quarantined and seemed to skew older than the network's usual fare.

Meanwhile, Supernatural, entering its 11th season, might still be a mainstay of the CW's upfront for years to come. "As long as the ratings hold and the boys [stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles] want to do it, we're in," said Pedowitz.

On the digital side, streaming is up 15 percent over last season, with a median age of 24. Pedowitz announced plans to build CW Seed, its digital arm, "into a second stand-alone brand" that will reach 75 million viewers by year's end. 

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.